Woodoo, a France-based startup that uses wood to make environmentally friendly alternatives to leather, glass, concrete and steel, has raised a $31m seed round led by French VC Lowercarbon Capital. Around two thirds of the raise was made up of equity, and the rest in non-dilutive funding.
The company was born when its founder and CEO — and former architect — Timothée Boitouzet, was frustrated that the construction industry continues to use energy-intensive, finite resources as materials. Realising that it’s “impossible to build the future with these old materials,” he set out to develop an alternative.
What does Woodoo do?
Wood contains a natural binding compound called lignin, which Woodoo extracts — along with air — from planks that have rotted or are otherwise damaged or low-grade. The lignin and air are then replaced with a biofiller that changes the properties of the wood. Depending on the amount of lignin that is removed, the company can produce three materials:
- SLIM, a translucent wood that replaces glass in the interiors and touch interfaces of cars;
- FLOW, an animal-free leather alternative for luxury fashion;
- SOLID, a replacement for steel and aluminium in construction.
Why do we need Woodoo?
The production of glass, steel and leather are energy-intensive, releasing greenhouse gases and requiring resources like sand. By contrast, wood is a carbon sink — trees store the carbon that they have absorbed.
The climate impacts of producing Woodoo’s alternatives are far lower than the materials they replace: SLIM material emits 7x less carbon dioxide than glass, FLOW has a carbon footprint 30x lower than leather and SOLID, Boitouzet says, will have a footprint 220x lower than construction-grade aluminium.
Currently, the glass and leather alternatives are both ready to go, Boitouzet tells Sifted, while the construction material is still in the early stages. As an architect by profession who wanted to replace commodity materials in construction, developing a steel and aluminium alternative was always the main mission of Woodoo, he says, so some of the seed round cash will be used to accelerate its development.
Other plans for the cash include increasing the manufacturing capacity of the company’s two factories and growing the marketing and commercial teams.
The construction sector is responsible for over 35% of total waste generation in the EU, according to the European Commission. It also found that the construction and renovation of buildings contribute to between 5% and 12% of total greenhouse gas emissions — but, crucially, 80% of those emissions could be saved with better material efficiency.
Woodoo has found a way not only to repurpose otherwise waste materials, but also to do so in a way that replaces more carbon-intensive options. And though the alternatives material space is relatively small, it sits within the hot sector of climate tech.
Wood is also one of the world’s oldest materials, and Boitouzet highlights that very little has since been done to revolutionise it. To do so, he says, “you need a bit of alchemy” — and that, he notes, inspired the magic of his startup’s name.